By S.K. Epperson
Donald I. Fine, 298 pp, 1992
This is a fine novel, suspenseful, scary at
times, with likeable characters and skilled writing. I've never heard of
this writer before, but she does have a few others published, mostly from
the early and mid 1990s. I got this from the library, which had a few more
of her books.
Vic Kimmler, a down-on-his-luck former vice
cop, has inherited his late father's farm in Denke, Kansas. Eager to get a
fresh start, Kimmler moves his two young girls there from Kansas City,
along with his good friend Nolan Wulf. Vic's had a rough few years - his
wife died after a long and expensive illness, and to pay the bills, Vic
sold cocaine. He was caught and asked to resign. He did so and has been
struggling since. He's hoping the farm, which supposedly has some valuable
stud horses, will make some money for him.
But Denke isn't what it seems, which is
true for nearly all small towns in horror novels. The locals seem friendly
but Vic and Nolan discover that they have some truly strange and murderous
traditions, started since the Denkes founded the town in the late 1800s.
Myra and her son Cal could tell them some
about it. She worked for Vic's dad and lives in a trailer on the farm. The
locals have been harassing her because she's an outsider and they want her
gone, but she thinks it's her late husband's mother, who wants Cal to live
So that's the setup.
Vic and Nolan aren't very likeable at
first, especially after we discover Vic's a former crooked cop. Nolan is
also a former cop and fireman, but he doesn't treat women well. Epperson,
to her credit, makes these two likeable by the end, so we care what
happens to them.
I don't know if she intended this, but her
book seems to make a statement about the power of tradition. Denke locals
do what they do because that's the way it's always been done. Few of them
ask any questions or second-guess what they're doing. Maybe blind faith in
tradition isn't such a good thing. Maybe tradition should be challenged
Then again, maybe the author didn't gave a
rat's you-know-what about tradition and just wanted to write a good book.